Flash Truth

…about flash gamedev and business

The ‘1’ that rules it all

planet-clock-3dI know I’ve been through this, maybe you have too. How much time does it take to make a game that is good enough to be profitable? This self-discussion that many developers face took a step with Feronato’s Experiment, like I like to call it.

The baseline of the topic is: what is more profitable, a one day game, a one week game or a one month game. I’m sorry to inform you I don’t know, what I’m sure is that the quality of flash games is rising, thus, the value for lower-end games with not that much of content or depth will be lower as time goes by.

Richard Davey commented in this blog that my view on the rate was probably wrong and reading his words I tend to agree with him since I did not take into consideration the possibility of having multiple projects going which would naturally lower the number of hours per project. With this in mind, I’m proposing, not the debunking of the flash development and marketing process but the analysis of the projected value in nowadays and future market. Best way I know is to offer you my own figures.

1 day game…

I only did a 1 day game once and it was a tech demo to show how to use some classes to some other devs. Some developers brag that they have found sponsors for games that fit in this category but I have never seen a game from any. I’m sure there are some polished exceptions, but I find hard to imagine any portal sponsoring or licensing the vast majority of 1 day games, after all, they can find better than that.

To the best of my knowledge, MochiAds with distribution enabled should give some money in the long run and if the developer can make a 1 day game every single week day, he will probably have a constant, although low-end income.

1 week game…

Been there… not exactly a week but less than two weeks. I’ve done it more than once also and my take is that the results depend a lot of the mechanic. Sure, this is true for almost any game, but it’s even more evident with 1 week games. If you have an extraordinary design, mechanic and a unique touch in your game, you can have a winner with a very small amount of time consumed.

I’ve experienced great success with this and grand failure. Both took around 10 days to make.

The great success granted me around $3000. It was a twist on a well known mechanic and I didn’t have any major expectations with it but it turned out to be a exception in terms of 1 week games.

Others have been a failure, best I got was $650. Although I cannot generalize I would say that 1 week games already have a hard time competing for offers and this will only get worse.

1 month games…

…or dare I say 1+ month games? Never did one month games although I’ve started some. All the projects that are supposed to take one month usually get 6 to 8 weeks because I take the time to make it better and better.

This is, in my opinion, the most fascinating thing about projects that are supposed to take more time, I polish and polish and polish again and the games grow, take more time but it is worth it.

The lower figure for a 1 month game was $1500 and it’s an exception, the lower end of the offers for these games. Unlike the 1 week games, 1+ month games are getting higher offers as market matures.

Conclusion

Take your time, make the best game possible. Sometimes we are aiming for the quick sale of a quick game when everyone would be happier with a bigger, better and more polished one.

If you aim for 1 day or 1 week development, be sure you have some extraordinary but keep in mind that sometimes what we think of our games is far exaggerated when compared to what other people think, and more important, to what portals are willing to pay for it.

February 15, 2009 Posted by | General, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Understanding the flash game space

In my most humble opinion, most developers are clueless about where they stand in the flash game space from a market point of view. This leads to wasted time, bad business and bottom-line: low money. This only applies to developers that want to make a profit from flash games, to all others that live up for their passion, it’s pointless, although, maybe, educative.

Here’s how most developers face business assuming there’s a sponsorship deal for a small game…

1. Developer makes a game in a week;

2. Developer shows game around to get a sponsorship deal, although not full time, it can take two weeks easily;

3. Game is sponsored, let’s say, for $500 and developer takes a couple of days to include sponsor stuff;

4. Developer puts ads on game and distributes it which generally means at least another week;

5. Game spreads and traffic goes to the sponsor thus generating money;

6. Developer gets an average of 15% (from my personal experience) from ads, so an extra $75;

Let’s crunch the numbers…

First and most obvious there’s no such thing as one week games, or one day games, since build to market time is always bigger, but I’ll dedicate a post to that one of these days, but the hard truth is that a one week game can easily be a 22 business days game, meaning, a full month. All of that for $575 if you are lucky. Assuming you work 8 hours a day, that’s a $3,26 per hour rate, which, let’s face it, it’s pretty bad.

And why did this happen? Let’s follow the money now…

1. Developer makes a game;

2. Sponsor picks it and sponsors it for $500;

3. Most sponsors don’t actively spread the game, thus, no distribution costs;

4. Sponsor gets pass-through traffic that will generate around $1 per thousand visits but it isn’t that important;

5. Sponsor gets traffic that sticks from users that register and visit the site and play their games continuously, which can generate a lot of money if the site is good which the large ones are.

6. Advertising networks keep a huge chunk of the money generated.

The Truth

1. Has I have said before, developers have nothing to win from distribution itself. Portals and advertising networks get most of the profit from the plays and the traffic games generate, still, developers are worried about distributing their games like if it was the most important thing of their, second only to sponsorship. In fact, the most important thing is THE GAME! A good game will attract good sponsorship deals, not to mention extra licensing if you are smart.

2. Developers waste too much time, thus loosing money, doing things that will make others win money. Mochi Ads is a class act in this department. They do handle distribution but they do it at a low cost for themselves since they have an established network, which is good for both Mochi and the developer.

3. Smaller portals do make a huge effort to distribute the games they sponsor but most of the bigger ones simply don’t care. And they don’t care because they usually get the high profile games that will, sooner or later, wide spread on the web, usually at the expense of the developer or, if they allow it, Mochi.

Understand where everyone fits and make everyone do their job

1. Developers should make the best game they can. They should also strive to make all necessary arrangements to fit their sponsor and licensing portals needs, which is something I often see developers lacking: professionalism. Developers should not distribute games since game spread is not their income source or investment return.

2. Portals should either spread the game themselves or allow ads on games thus leaving the distribution for the advertising network since both have direct income from game spreading wildly. Using advertising would then be an extra incentive to the developer, not a need, a badly paid one.

3. Advertising networks should be the major spreading force since they are the ones that get the most of it. Most bigger portals already have a considerable user base, thus making licensing more interesting as a model.

4. Bottom line: each part does what it’s profitable for their core business: Developers make games, portals manage content and advertising networks manage advertising inventory.

Wow… this was a big one…

Still there? Ok… What matters here is that there’s a culture of “roles” in the flash game space and it’s the developer that takes the toll. Why? Well, most are naif and the big guns take advantage of it. I’m not saying portals are bad or good or that advertising networks are bad or good, what I’m saying is that the developer is the small guy that can be easily bullied if he acts alone while the herd is following a different direction.

We must rethink all of this, together. Us, portals and ads networks are partners in this, not enemies, so we need to sort our act together so that the market continues to grow based on quality, not a dogmatic approach of how it is handled.

January 8, 2009 Posted by | Advertising Networks, General, Monetizing, Portals | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Is sponsorship doomed?

Just read the chat event with Jared from Hero Interactive at Flash Game License. In the middle of a lot of questions and answers, one thing popped up. He said that he believes the current sponsoring model will move more towards a licensing model.

A typical flash developer would probably think that this is a bad thing, since exclusive and primary deals are probably the highest paid deals around. Let’s see what this means from a pure business perspective.

Here’s the math, round low numbers for clarity.

With exclusive sponsorship = $100

Imagine that you get an offer of $100 for an exclusive sponsorship. What this means is that you will get $100 and that’s it, maybe some advertising if the sponsor allows it. Your game will be on 500 sites in a month, the sponsor will get all the juicy traffic and that’s about it.

With primary sponsorship = $150

Many developers opt, if they can, for a primary sponsorship. That usually brings a nice sponsorship deal for a lower price, let’s say $75 and the power for the developer to sell site-locked licenses. For calculations, let’s imagine that you would sell 3 site-locked licenses for $25, so that’s an extra $75. The game would go to the same 500 sites, maybe some more cents from advertising.

Pure licensing model = $500

Let’s start with the basic of this. The game would NOT be distributed in 500 sites. The game would be licensed to any site that paid for it. Imagine this: only 20 sites would have the game, but each would pay $25. This is $500 right there. You can argue that portals can do this right now if the game has a primary sponsorship, but they don’t. Why? Because they can have the games for free. The beauty of licensing is that the game is not really freely distributed, but licensed for use.

What’s the big picture?

Well, this could change things a lot. First and foremost, this could mean either the rise or fall of advertising networks as we know it. Rise because portals that couldn’t license games would have to accept advertising not matter what. Fall because the high traffic portals would simply close down any external advertising offer.

This would also benefit more the big developers over the small ones. There would be more money going for developers but the offer would be uneven.

But I see this as a possible change in the business model. A change that is necessary since the right money is not going to the right pockets right now.

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Monetizing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment